George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine

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George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine


In the 1920s, New England heiress Frances Glessner Lee (d. 1962) became fascinated with the colorful crime-solving career of George Burgess Magrath (1870-1938), the medical examiner for Suffolk County and an instructor in legal medicine at Harvard Medical School. Mrs. Lee contributed funds to endow a professorship in legal medicine, a visiting lectureship, and a fellowship program and also crafted the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death—a series of miniature crime scenes for student analysis. In 1933, she made an additional gift to establish the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine and, as its honorary curator, continued to acquire and donate rare books and manuscripts in legal medicine and medical jurisprudence. By 1964, the Magrath Library held some 3,700 volumes, and when its holdings were transferred to the Countway Library, legal medicine and jurisprudence became significant subject strengths of the collection.

Highlights of the Magrath Library include rare trial accounts, works on criminology, toxicology, and poisoning, including a 15th century manuscript of Petrus de Abano’s De venenis, and a collection of unique material concerning Charles Guiteau, the assassin of President James A. Garfield, including poems written by Guiteau while in prison, his own copy of his autobiographical work The truth and the removal, and the diary of his spiritual counselor, William Watkin Hicks.

Collection Items

The truth and the removal
The truth and the removal is Charles Guiteau’s autobiographical defense of his assassination of James A. Garfield and an account of his own trial, written while he was in prison and awaiting execution. This is Guiteau’s own copy, and it…

"The technique of a medico-legal investigation" by George B. Magrath. Page 20-28.
George B. Magrath presented this lecture describing a typical investigation to the members of the Massachusetts Medico-Legal Society on its meeting on February 1, 1922.
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